Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Blessings

Well, this Christmas we are certainly blessed. We have really enjoyed shopping for Christmas presents for our daughter. She has brought so much joy to our lives.
I just wanted to post quickly with how she's doing. She is walking very well and has gained a few pounds. She is learning very quickly. She can now say about eight words in English and use about 10 signs in sign language. She is a fast learner.
Well, I thought I could post more, but baby girl just woke up from her nap, so I'll have to stop for now. Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


It has been one month now since we brought her home. We are doing very well. We are still seeing a few temper tantrums, but now it's more like "getting close to the terrible two's" type of tantrums.

The picture is from her second trip to the park. Her first visit to the park we forgot the camera, and on the second trip she just absolutely loved the swing.

She is eating well, and all issues with milk/juice have been worked out. She will now not only drink milk, but soy milk, goat's milk, and even rice milk. This is handy because some soy doesn't have to be kept refrigerated (for when we are on the road...) She eats just about anything, and if she won't eat something the first time, I try it again another day and she loves it. She has started eating on her own...if I can make it "finger food". I still need to hand feed her things like yogurt and oatmeal, but I let her hold a spoon and I guide it to the food and she puts it in her own mouth. She's getting used to it. A couple more months and she'll be eating only on her own. She is now completely off the bottle and drinks from sippy cups.

Her sleeping is going well. She sleeps 11-12 hours at night and 1-2 hours in the afternoon.
She still screams when we put her to bed, whether it's nap time or night time. She cries loudly for about five minutes or so, then quiets down and goes to sleep. As the weeks go by, we find that she's crying for less and less time. Also, she's getting used to our "nightly" routine. When we sit on the twin bed to read the night time story, she starts to whimper, because she knows that the next step is me laying her down in the crib.

She has met the majority of the family....grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles. She has one aunt to meet, but she's met almost all of her cousins. She'll be meeting the rest at Thanksgiving or at the baby shower on Dec. 6th.

She will be evaluated on Nov. 25 by Early Intervention to see if she qualifies for any services. While I personally don't think there are any issues, and in fact she catches on very quickly to things, I also don't think it would hurt to have a professional opinion or to get some tips on how to help her catch up.

She started walking soon after we got home, but it wasn't until mid-November that she found her balance and started walking around the house. Now she loves to walk everywhere. We went to the indoor play room in our are and she just spent the whole time walking around the room. She had no interest in playing...she just wanted to walk....

As far as the adoption goes, we are officially "done". We received her Certificate of Citizenship in the mail this week, along with a letter from President Bush, congratulating her on becoming a citizen. We can now apply for her Social Security card and her Passport.

I am amazed at how quickly my house becomes messy now. It seems like I am constantly doing dishes. The laundry didn't surprise me, and I'm not really having problems keeping up with that. I am having trouble keeping up with the vacuuming and dusting. I think I just have to do it once a month or once every two weeks and not worry about it so much. Since she's taking such long naps, it will be easy for me to grab some cloths and dust the furniture and such. Vacuuming is harder, and I find that I have to do it on weekends when my husband is home rather than try to do it during the week. Other than that, my biggest adjustment has been shopping. I can't just pick up my purse any time and head out the door. I have to think about whether it's close to meal or snack time or even too close to nap time. The weather, too. She gets hot easily, and she throws a fit in the car if her hood or hat is on because she gets sweaty so easily, so if it's raining or snowing I have to make sure she's covered for the trip to the car, but then uncover her head in the car. I also have to think about where we're going and if I'll need a stroller or can use a cart. If we are going somewhere like the post office, it's so much easier to take her in a stroller because then she doesn't wiggle as much.

Well, my daughter has been sleeping for over two hours, and if she sleeps any longer, she won't go to bed at a decent time tonight, so I think I'd better go make some noises so she'll wake up. I hate to do that, but I'd like to go to bed at a decent time tonight, too!!!!

We are all doing very well, and I can't wait to see what the next month brings....

Friday, November 7, 2008

How We're Doing

Where has the time gone? It seems like we got home yesterday, but it's been two weeks! Grace is doing very well. She was throwing some massive temper tantrums and we seem to have worked out the issues. Most of them centered around meal times. We finally figured out that she doesn't like the American baby food. It's too bland. So, we just make soups, stews, and whatever else we're having for dinner and blend some up for her, too. So far there is nothing I've made that she doesn't like....that's a great feeling... She's a great eater. She has a huge breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, and then a couple hours later she'll have a snack. At lunch she eats a huge bowl of food (usually a soup) and then have a snack in the afternoon after her nap. Sometimes she'll have a second snack in the afternoon if I just don't want to give her dinner so early. At dinner she'll eat a huge bowl of food, and sometimes before bed we'll give her another snack. We're still working on meals and snacks as far as what she eats. I know we have to get a little more creative with her snacks...they need to be a little more varied and such. However, for now it's working....she's not getting any junk food for her snacks or meals, so we're safe there...

Her sleeping is awesome. She goes to bed anywhere between 7 and 8 pm. She wakes up anywhere between 7 and 8 am. She takes a nap in the afternoon-anywhere between 1-2.5 hours. This gives me an advantage because I know that when I get up at 6am, I have time to take a shower, dress, catch up on e-mail, do some dishes, and eat breakfast. During her naps I can clean the bathrooms, Swiffer the floors, and do some dishes.

We have a somewhat daily routine, which has not only helped her get the sleep she needs, but helps me stay sane. After she wakes, she has breakfast, then we play for a while. On MWF around 9 am or so, we go to the Community Center in a nearby village and go to the indoor play area. It's great. For $2 she can go in and play with all this outdoor play stuff and have fun. We usually stay for an hour or depends on if there are other children there. She gets hungry around 10 or 10:30, so we go home and I give her a snack. If she gets up early (closer to 7) then I can give her a snack before we go and then I have time to run a small errand before we have to go home for lunch. Lunch is close to noon if I can manage it. Really it's about 11:30. Between noon and 1 she's ready for a nap. She sleeps until 2 or 3. (Usually closer to 2) We then have a snack and then if it's a "nice" day outside we try to go out and go to the park...or just go for a walk. Around 4 or 5 she's starting to get hungry again so I'll give her a small snack or just make dinner for her. When I make meals for us, I take the leftovers and process them for her. Then I make meal sized portions and put them in the freezer. That way, if she's hungry before I can get our dinner done, she can eat one of the leftovers. We have more playtime after dinner and when my husband is home, he plays with her, too. Depending on how tired she is, we usually take her upstairs around 7:30. Every-other day she gets a bath, and we then put her to bed. She has a sleep-routine where she cries for about ten minutes, but then settles down and falls asleep to her lullaby music.

She is gaining weight quickly. She is about 17 to 18 pounds now. When we took her to the doctor in Moscow, she was 14.7 pounds. She's really trying to walk, too. She loves to stand herself up, and will usually walk along the furniture with ease. She will take about five steps before she falls. She loves to try to walk to me. She is also coming along in her speech. She is saying "Mama, Dada, UP, Nana (our word for Grandma). She is mimicking sneezing, and she likes to scrunch her nose and mouth up and blow...we don't know who taught her that one. She can blow raspberries.

She is overall a very happy baby. We had the film developed from the pictures the orphanage ladies took. Most of them are dark, but you can make some things out. She appears very confused to be in the play rooms. She looks very serious in each picture. She's also very alone. We wish that the pictures had turned out better, but we're grateful for what we have.

She's doing very well and is adjusting to her new life quickly. I'd better go now so I can have my breakfast before she gets up....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

In her Hip Hammock, enjoying the sights of Moscow...this is a cafe on Arbat Street called My My.

A few photos for your viewing pleasure...

Dr. Ludmilla, the orphanage director...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Our Journey to bring Grace HOME!

I didn't have access to a computer/internet while we were gone, so sorry it's taken me so long to post.

We left on Thursday, October 9. The flight to New York went was only about two hours. It was a tiny plane. When we arrived at the airport, we stopped at Wendy's to get lunch. If we had known what was ahead, we should have grabbed several burgers to take with us, but what did we know? The flight to Moscow seemed to take forever, and of course, I couldn't sleep a wink! It was about nine hours from New York to Moscow. We landed a bit early in Moscow, and had plenty of time to get through Passport Control and Immigration. We collected our bags and entered the "waiting" area and found our coordinator from last time, Oksana. She took us to a seating area to wait for the other couple whom we traveled with last trip. We waited only about 40 minutes. Their flight from Atlanta landed shortly after ours. We then all piled into a van and headed for the medical clinic. Now, during our flight we had "dinner" and "breakfast". Of course, you know airline was o.k., but not the greatest. By the time we landed in Moscow, we were pretty hungry. However, there were no "fast food" restaurants at the airport where we were waiting, and no time to really get a bite to eat. The driver did not stop to get us something. We hinted to Oksana that we were hungry, but we had to get to the medical clinic.

We arrived at the clinic at about 1, but our appointment wasn't until 3. Oksana told us that we needed to pay for the visit in Rubles (we had been told previously that it could be American dollars), so she took us a few blocks away to exchange money. We then stopped at a Cafe, where we had a sandwich for a snack. Actually, it was a half a sandwich...and kind of expensive. I ate it simply because I was starving, but it wasn't good. We got back to the clinic to wait our turn for the medicals.

The medicals were a joke. We were told in May that we had to have an 8-doctor medical when we arrived in Moscow, and we had to do the medical before we could go to court. It cost us about $700 a piece. We had to submit paperwork and test results from our doctor here and take all that stuff with us. For the visit, one doctor would call the couple in, ask a handful of questions, stamp a paper, and we were done with that doctor. Litereally. The questions were so stupid, I don't know how they can determine how healthy you are from that. For instance, the psychiatrist asked "do either of you have a history of mental health problems?" and "do either of you have family members that suffered from mental health problems?" and then said " based on your answers I would say that you are both mentally capable of taking care of a child." The psychologist asked " are you excited about adopting a child?" " Are you both pretty happy people?" and "Is your family excited about the adoption?" The infectologist asked "how often do you get a cold?" The only doctors that asked a bunch of questions was the general practitioner who seemed fascinated that Brian had clear lung x-ray even though he had cystic fibrosis (thanks to me who insisted he do his therapy religiously before the x-ray...) She called in another specialist to review the findings. Asked Brian a bunch of questions about his health, none of which seemed rude, smiled a lot at us and signed our papers. Another doctor came in and tested our reflexes. Another one came in and checked our breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. (mine was high, but after 24 hours of traveling and court to look forward to, whose wouldn't be?) That's about it...only one doctor actually smiled at us. The rest were all business. Only two looked at any of the paperwork we brought. Oh, and we needed a urine analysis (we were told we didn't need one by our case worker) so we gave a sample, but I really don't think the tests were run on it.

After that, we rushed back to the airport. It's a two-hour drive from the clinic, and we were going to be late for our flight. We arrived just in time. We were all starving, but of course, no fast-food at the airport, and we didn't have time to go searching for snacks. Our flight left like a half hour after we found the gate. This flight was four hours to Kemerovo. We landed at about 6 in the morning. Our coordinator, Anna, met us after baggage claim and took us to a van. She explained that we would have about 40 minutes to shower and have breakfast at the hotel before we were to leave for the orphanage. I've never eaten so much so fast in my life. The women at the hotel made us breakfast. We had fried eggs, shredded spicy carrots, cold ham, cold kidney beans, cold corn, and some other stuff too. I was so hungry I ate just about everything accept the carrots...too spicy for me! We ran out to the van for the 2.5 hour ride to the orphanage.

When we arrived at the orphanage, we were pleasantly surprised. It was undergoing a rennovation. Anna explained that there is a new law stating that walls have to be a certain depth, so the orphanage added insulation and siding. There was also some new play equipment in the play yard. Glad our "donation" was able to help. Anna rang the bell, and a woman answered. When she heard what we were there for, she shook her head and told Anna that no one told them anyone would be here to visit children that day. She let us in anyway and took us to what is the Music Room. We didn't see this room the first visit, but it was right next to the Play Room we were in in June, and we could hear the children singing and someone playing the piano while we were playing with our children. About a half an hour later, they brought the children in to us. Grace cried almost the entire time. Her nose was stuffy, and we weren't sure if she had a cold. She also appeared very tired and hungry. We were only with our children about 40 minutes before the caretakers came in and took the kids for lunch. How I wish the visit could have been longer!!

We left the orphanage and Anna said that we'd be stopping to get something to eat. We stopped at an Uzbek place. I won't call it a restaurant, because it was like a truck stop. It was a small building with tables and chairs and you order your food at the counter. Then a man outside with a grill makes your food and brings it to you. The meal was very good. We had a "salad", which was cucumbers and tomatoes with mayonaise and barbecue pork wrapped in a tortilla. Brian and I had to use the restroom, and Anna showed us a door with a T on it. It was an iron door leading to a cement room. There was a hole in the ground. You get the picture? No TP and no sink. Fun!

We got back to the hotel and all of us just crashed. We had about three hours of sleep in the last 48 hours, and all of us were just zonked.

On Sunday we went down for breakfast. It was blinis (thin pancakes) stuffed with cottage cheese. Doesn't sound good, but they were sooooo good. Especially with sour cream on them. We went exploring and found an internet cafe. Well, it advertised that you could use the internet there, but no on could get a signal. There were two men there. They were trying to speak to us in English. They communicated to us that Germany and Russia played soccer the prior evening, and that Germany won. They then started talking about politics. They wanted to know what party Obama was and McCain. They told us they wanted Obama to win. They said some uncomplementary things about our present President and told us that the leader of Georgia is a terrorist. They then tried to get us to go out back for a smoke, but they weren't talking about cigarettes. We think they wanted us to smoke pot. We left quickly. We found a "mall", which was like WalMart. Well, a disorganized WalMart. Either way, we were able to buy some necessities and some food.

Bright and early Monday morning we had the egg breakfast before court. The other couple went first. It took about 40 minutes. We were called. There were four other people in the room. The judge, the social worker from the orphanage, a prosecutor, and the court reporter. The judge asked Brian to stand. She asked a lot of questions, all of which we had been prepared for and Brian was allowed to read his responses from notes. She then asked about his diabetes. She was just trying to make sure that Brian's health is stable and that he can provide for our daughter.

I was then asked to stand. The judge wanted to know why I have a Bachelor's Degree but don't use it. I explained that I wanted to raise our daughter first before I started my career. She seemed pleased with that. I then asked for the 10 day waiting period to be waived and explained that she had a doctor's appointment to see how we can start "treating her" (they made a big deal out of the fact that she is underweight and not on-target developmentally....they saw it as a "sickness"). We then listened as she read almost our entire home study. The prosecutor asked us a few questions, and then the social worker from the orphanage spoke. She said that when they brought Grace out to us for the first time in June, Grace came to me without crying and that she played really well with us while we were there. The prosecutor was satisfied with the fact that I had been a nanny-I had lots of experience with children. We left the room for about 20 seconds. When we returned, the prosecutor said that she believes we satisfy the requirements for an adoptive family and that she supports the 10-days being waived. The judge also said that we satisfy the requirements and that she approves the 10-day waive. She granted us our petition to adopt. We're parents!!!

Right after court, we went back to the hotel to grab our diaper bag and some paperwork. We first went to the Vital Records office. Anna had previously filed our paperwork for us, so when we arrived, it was all ready. We received her birth certificate and her adoption decree. Anna held on to them, however, because they needed to go through more paperwork with them. We then went to the Police station where we applied for her Russian passport.

Prior to court, Anna had told us that Dr. Ludmilla wished for us to pick up our children that day instead of Tuesday. So, after we were done at the Police station, we loaded into the van and left for the orphanage. Our translator, Alyssia, had the driver stop at an Armenian place (much like the Uzbek eatery) for a quick bite to eat. It was pretty much the same meal, only the barbecue sauce was different and not as good. We raced to the orphanage and arrived at about 5:30. Dr. Ludmilla met us there and went over any questions we had. She then talked about the schedule at the orphanage and their sample menu. It went something like this:

7am wake up
8am breakfast (oatmeal)
9am activities /exercises
10-12 snack and play time (juice and fruit)
12 lunch ( something like bread product and eggs)
1-3 nap
4pm snack (sour milk product like yogurt or kefir)
5-7 activities like massage and walks outside
8pm dinner (casserole, milk and fruit)
9 pm bed

Ok, so it's not exact, but that's the general idea, and yes, 9pm bed and 7 am wake up....

I had to use the restroom, and when I returned, a very confused Grace was sitting on Brian's lap. As soon as she saw me, she burst into tears. We had to hurry and change them (diaper and all) and had time for one quick photo with Dr. Ludmilla before we left for the hotel. She cried until I gave her a bottle of juice, then she fell asleep.

When we returned to the hotel, Grace woke up so we decided to give her a bath. Well, actually it was a shower because there was no tub. She hated it. She went to bed, though and went right to sleep.

On Tuesday we all just stuck around the hotel. Brian went to the Police station to pick up her passport. On Wednesday we ventured outside and took her to the internet place to send some quick messages. People were getting worried because they hadn't heard from us. It was a quick message, though, because Grace refused to go anywhere near Brian, so Brian had to type.

Thursday morning bright and early we boarded a plane for Moscow (it's now the 16th of October). Grace fell asleep during take off, cried most of the trip, and slept during landing. Again, she didn't like Brian so I couldn't just hand her over to him while I took a break. Let's just say I was very tired. We landed in Moscow and we were dropped off at our apartment. It was very spacious and was located on Novy Arbat Street. Very nice place...I would highly recommend it. It was very close to food and shopping.

We couldn't find the grocery store right away, so I did have some panic moments when our supply of baby food was winding down. However, we did end up finding one and I was able to feed my child. We were also able to buy chickens for ourselves that I could boil with our pots and stove at the apartment. Friday we went to the medical clinic for Grace's check up. Dr. Boris called her a Drama Queen, and I have to agree. He declared her healthy but underweight. He urged us to stick to the diet the orphanage director gave us. Good luck with that, the girl wouldn't drink milk or formula or water. We also didn't have access to all the foods the directress told us about. Anyway, we did the best we could.

On Saturday and Sunday we went shopping and exploring. On Monday we went to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and received her American Visa. Tuesday Brian took her passport to the Russian Consulate and registered her. Wednesday we went to the Kremlin (although we didn't pay to see anything. We just took photos of the outside....we never made it to St. Basil's because you had to pay to get in.

Early Thursday morning (October 23rd) we began our LONG journey home. She slept for take off, cried most of the way to New York, and fell asleep for landing. During the flight from New York to Chicago, she slept the entire flight. When we landed at O'Hare, my Father-In-Law was there to get us, and my Mother-In-Law and her sister were there, too. They went to our house during that day and had baked us cookies, made a pot roast, and decorated the house for Halloween. They only stayed a few minutes, though, and we went to bed right after we put her down.

So far, Grace has adjusted very well. We are still tweaking our sleep schedules. Friday she woke up at 4:30am and would not go back to sleep. She took a nap in the morning and another in the afternoon. However, she wanted to sleep longer and I woke her up at 3:30. She was NOT happy. She was a bear the entire evening. She had an absolute fit during dinner. Wouldn't eat-just got hysterical. I gave her a bath and put her to bed.

This morning she woke up at 3:30. I changed her diaper and put her back to bed. I was NOT going to repeat Friday. She cried for a few minutes and then went back to sleep. She slept until almost 7am. She was very cranky at breakfast, but I think it was because she was so hungry and she didn't like being in the high chair. She has been in a very good mood since she woke up.

She loves the cats, but still is a bit rough with them. Lyla really likes her, and will rub up against her...until Grace grabs her tail....

She loves daddy now, and loves to play with him. That was a huge relief. She loves the house and loves her toys. Her first medical visit is on Monday, where I can ask the doctor how to get her to gain weight.

Well, we're off to Babies R Us, where I need to buy a diaper pail and a Sleep Sack. The girl twists, rolls and moves so much at night she can't keep a blanket on! I'll post pictures once we've had a chance to get them on our comuter!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Just a few more hours

Well, just a few more hours to go before we leave and change our lives forever. I have been reading the blogs of people who have recently returned from their second trips to get an idea of how things go. One couple used the same agency, and completed the adoption in January. Their daughter was the same age as ours and it was interesting to read their experience.

We currently have one suitcase and two carry-ons each. The suitcases are five lbs over the weight limit for the Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Kemerovo. I am considering splitting some of the things into a third bag so that we won't get fined. I will have to check to see if three bags for two people is acceptable.

We are unable to take the laptop with us, so we will have to be content with using the computers at the hotel and apartment.

We are traveling with the same couple we traveled with on our first trip. Our apartments are only about 1.5 miles away from each other in Moscow, so it will be nice to have another couple to sight-see with.

We'll write more once we're in Kemerovo.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Less than a week to go...

It is now six days before we leave. We have made all our travel arrangements, and received our Visas today. We leave on Thursday, October 9th at 11:25 am. There is a stop-over at JFK, then we land at 10am on Friday morning in Moscow. We will be joining Beth and Jason (the couple who went with us on trip number one) and will go to our medical appointments. Later that evening, we will catch a flight to Kemerovo. We arrive in Kemerovo around 8am Saturday. We will be visiting our children on Saturday. On Monday, we have court. We pray that the judge waives the 10-day wait. If the ten days is waived, we will pick Grace up from the orphanage on Tuesday the 14th. We are required to stay in the region one full day after pick up (Wednesday). On Thursday morning we go back to Moscow. Our flight leaves Kemerovo at 8am and because of the time zones we land in Moscow at 8am. It is a four-hour flight, and Kemerovo is four hours ahead of Moscow. On Thursday, our children will go to the U.S. Embassy for their check up. Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will be spent doing passport and visa stuff. We will leave Thursday afternoon/early evening the 23rd. Because of the time zone differences, we will arrive at O'Hare at 7pm on Thursday.

We are trying to pack lightly, but we still have two huge suitcases along with our two carry -ons. I am trying to stuff as much in the carry-ons as I can so that if our suitcases get lost, we will each have some clothes until they catch up with us again. Brian won't pack until the last minute, so I am going nuts thinking we are going to forget something.

My friends are thowing us a baby shower on Saturday, October 4. I am so excited! My mom and Grandma are coming. They are driving out tonight and staying the night until tomorrow. My Grandmother has never been to our house before. I'm not sure where she will want to sleep. My mother has never come here by herself, so I'm a bit nervous about her driving here for the first time. She doesn't have a cell phone, so I hope she doesn't get lost!

I'll post again once we return!

Friday, September 19, 2008

We have a court date!!!!

We were notified on Thursday that we have a tentative court date for October 13 (probably won't change, but we're waiting for confirmation).

We are currently scrambling to make travel arrangements.  We've already called the travel agency (I don't want the hassle of trying to schedule all those flights!!) and she will get in touch with me later today. Of course, just like the first trip, we can't purchase the tickets until we get the confirmation.  

We will have to make arrangements for our stay in Moscow on our own.  There are tons of apartments available.  We are trying to find some under $150, which is proving really hard.  The family that traveled at the same time to meet their son is also traveling at the same time for their court.  We are trying to work together to get the same apartment building.  It would be nice to be in the same area.    They are in Georgia and decided to book their own flights, so we won't see them until we get to the airport in Kemerovo...we might see them on the flight from Moscow to Kemerovo..I think there's only one airline that makes the flight.   Anyway...I know we'll be staying in the same hotel in Kemerovo because our agency makes the reservations for us.  

It will be nice to have another American couple staying near us in Moscow.  We will be able to sight see together, and of course take some FAMILY PICTURES!

We are just so excited to be able to to.

Please pray for us as we make travel arrangements and approach our travel date.  

Thanks for all your prayers so far...they have truly been a blessing to us, and have helped us survive to this point!!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Adoption

Things I wish I knew Before I Started Adoption
International Adoption information:

As soon as you sign the contract for your agency, download application I 600 A from the U.S. Department of Homeland security web site. Submit with a cover letter stating that you will send your home study as soon as it's completed.

Begin your home study A.S.A.P. Ask ahead of time what documents you will need and take them to your first meeting. During the home visit, you will be asked for a biography. Work on this ahead of time.

Your agency may require adoptive parent credit hours. Begin these as soon as possible. There are on-line classes you can take for free, or find out if there is an adoption seminar you. You can take on-line classes for credit through

The USCIS will issue an order for you to be fingerprinted…do it as soon as you can as the results can take up to eight weeks.

Contact the Secretary of State in which you were born/married and order copies of those documents. Also, request them to be authenticated at the same time, saving time and shipping costs. (you must know the country you are adopting from, since all countries have different requirements). Or, you can order your documents through the Vita check web site. (you will receive your documents within days instead of weeks)

If you were born out of the counry, make sure you know how to order copies of your birth certificate and get copies of it as soon as possible. They will also need to be authenticated (apostilled or certified).

Submit your fingerprints to your local police station as soon as possible, as sometimes the results can take up to 8 weeks.

When you start your dossier, ask for two or three original copies of what you need. Have one or two notarized. Leave the other one or two alone in case you need them notarized at another time.

When you take your documents to be notarized, make sure that the notary does not expire for at least a year. If you are not close to completing the process by the time the notary expires, try to take the un-notarized copies to another notary. If your notary expires before your court date, your documents would need to be re-done. Therefore, if you have extra original copies of your dossier, you can have them notarized and apostilled in a jiffy.

When you notarize the documents for your dossier, photocopy them before you get them notarized or apostilled. Once they are apostilled, it's harder to photocopy. Also, if you need an extra copy of your document without the notaryl you will have copies of it. When you get them apostilled, you'll have to photocopy the apostille as well.

Make friends with a notary public. Try to get all your documents notarized by the same person. This will make getting your documents apostilled easier and faster.

When you are ready to have your documents apostilled (or certified, whatever language your agency uses) try to go to your state's capital if you live near enough, or to the largest city that has the office you need. In Illinois it's the Secretary of State's office at 17 State Street, level 10. If you can go to the office, go in person. Arrive as early as they open. This way, you are sure to get your documents done while you wait. When you send them in to the office, it will take weeks for them to get to the documents and you have to pay for shipping.

Your agency might ask you to set up a FedEx account (or another mail service). If you choose FedEx, you can go online to their web site and order envelopes and air bills. Order at least the air bills because they print your return address information and account number on the forms. Having them in your home will make it easier when you need to send something out to your agency.

Stay organized. Don't let the photocopies and originals get all mixed up. Keep them all separate in folders clearly marked.

Be prepared for unexpected costs. While the contract may say that your adoption costs $21,000 in reality, it may cost about $35-40,000. This is because the agency doesn't take into account the fees for applying for the I-600 A and the fingerprinting, and also the postal costs, photocopying fees, etc…

Invest in a printer that acts as a photocopier, scanner, and fax machine. You might be able to find a really good one on sale, or through craig's list, ebay or garage sale. You will save a lot of money and time by being able to do it at home.

Have a stack of post-it notes close at hand when you are working with your documents. That way, you can write memos to yourself about what needs to be done with each page.

When your agency e-mails or sends you the documents necessary for the dossier, save them to your computer. That way, if you mess up a copy, you can easily print another one. You should also consider saving a copy once you fill it out. You can always print it and write "I affirm that this is a copy of an original document" to have it notarized. It will save you a lot of heartache to have to re-do the page if, say, the notary expires. If you have a photocopy on file (without a notary signature), you can print off a copy and get that one notarized. Also save a notarized version in case your agency looses their copy. You can print off a copy for them and still keep your copies. Save a copy of the apostille for each page as well in case you need to print off a copy of the apostille.

I hope these tips help, and if you have any advice, please let me know!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


We have made huge leaps since I last posted. Was it only two weeks ago? Anyway, last Wednesday we had our appointment to get fingerprinted. I received the Police Clearances yesterday. We also had our doctor's appointments on Thursday. Today I picked up all the test results from the chest x-rays and the bloodwork. I also picked up the long-awaited letter from the doctor. I hope that it is sufficient. I e-mailed it to our case worker, and I'm waiting for a response. I don't know if no response is a positive thing or not.

I hope to have everything notarized tomorrow and perhaps by Thursday I will be able to go downtown and have everything apostilled. If it goes smoothly like that, I can send everything to the agency by Friday or Monday. That's it. Our whole second dossier is complete. After everything is notarized, I will photocopy everything. Then when it's all been apostilled, I will photocopy the apostilles. It will be a big packet I send to the agency. Not only will I have to send the agency's copies, but I also have to send an additional three copies for their co-agency.

We are praying that we meet no new challenges. We have struggled so hard for this adoption, and I pray that we are met with relative smooth sailing from now on. (minor problems are ok...but no more big stuff, please!)

I'll post again once we hear something.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A little progress

It took us over three weeks to finally get his neurologist to fax his medical records to our family doctor. We called them after three weeks and explained that we only need the two years surrounding the surgeries. Within 24 hours, the files were at our doctor's office. Big progress there. We also scheduled our physicals for August 25. I sent our agency an update, and we were asked if we could get a physical sooner. So, we called the doctor and re-scheduled for Aug. 14. We also ordered the papers for our background checks that takes four to six weeks to get the results. However, the agency e-mailed and asked if we can get our fingerprints done instead, which only takes 24 hours. We would then call the State Police and ask them to send us a letter of clearance.

I'm a little anxious to find out why we are all of a sudden in a hurry to get all our paperwork in. We pray that we will be able to travel by the end of September. After we get the police clearances and medicals, our second part of the dossier is complete. We've had the majority of it done since April. We were supposed to take the bulk of it with us to Russia and hand it over to the translator to be translated while we were waiting for our second trip. However, we were asked at the last minute to hang on to them and make extra copies. So, we will be sending the entire dossier to Russia to be translated, and I have no idea how long that will take.

That's all the news we have for now. Hopefully, I'll have some more positive news another day. We are still unsure if Russia will still be allowing us to continue even after our doctor writes the note. We'll just have to wait and see. I'm thinking our agency is positive we will continue because we were told a month ago not to do the rest of our paperwork until our doctor had written the note and the agency had a chance to "guess" if Russia would be willing for us to continue. Obviously they've had a change of heart because not only are they asking for us to go ahead and do the paperwork, they are also asking us to do it "in a hurry".

More later.....

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Snag

We have hit a snag in our process. We now need a note from our doctor explaining a medical condition. We are unsure if our family doctor will be willing to write the letter. However-even if our doctor is willing to write a letter, we still may not be able to continue with this adopion. The letter may not be acceptable to the Russian DOE. Please pray that if this is God's will that we be parents to this beautiful, sweet child that we will be able to complete this adoption. Pray for our sanity and our patience. We are getting very frustrated and just want to see things done.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

We're home!

Wednesday was such a bittersweet day. Aliona picked us up at 9:00 and took us to the orphanage. We went into Dr. Ludmilla's room and presented her with our gifts of clothes for the children, money for diapers or formula, and chocolates for the caretakers. She must have been impressed, because she took us on a tour of the orphanage! There are pictures on the Kemerovo yahoo group of these rooms, so I'd seen them before, but we were treated with a tour. It was amazing to see the rooms I had only thought I'd see in pictures. First we saw the pool room. It is a three-leaf clover-shaped pool. She said the children learn how to swim at an early age. She then showed us the sauna. Now, when I saw the picture on the yahoo group, I have a sauna. However, Dr. Ludmilla explained that they don't use steam. Instead, they put herbs and oils on the rocks to help children with soar throats. She then showed us a little table set up with tea cups and explained that the children with soar throats drink herbal tea to relieve the pain and promote healing. Next, she showed us a large cedar barrel with a hole in the top. It is a steam chamber, and the child sits inside with his head out. The steam helps open nasal passages and lung passages. It was a gift from our agency, and she is very thankful for it. We then saw the therapy room. There were a few very old nebulizers for children with asthma and other breathing problems. Then there were little cots and electo-shock devices. She didn't explain all of it, but I'm assuming it might be for the children with CP. There was also a tanning light there. We at first were thinking...ok...lucky kids get a tan....but Dr. Ludmilla explained that there aren't enough sunny days there and the light helps the children absorb enough vitamin D.

We were very impressed, and we were amazed that she allowed us to see these rooms. When we arrived back at her office, a caretaker came in with Grace. She cried when her caretaker left, but she didn't fight me to get down. Dr. Ludmilla offered her a cookie and she stopped crying and even put her head on my chest while she chewed on the cookie. We then went back into the play room to spend time with her.

It was nice having the room all to ourselves. She wasn't distracted by what was going on with Jacob, and her attention was on us. We held her for a little while, and then let her down to show us what she wanted to do. She loves the stackable cups we brought, and the balls that make noise. She also loves to walk. When she was sitting on the floor and wanted to get up to walk, she would grab our fingers and pull herself up. That was an encouraging sign. If she didn't like the finger you offered her, she would move your hand until she found the finger she wanted to hold. Today I let Brian play with her a lot because the children aren't used to men. She took to him pretty well. She allows him to hold her, but when he kisses her she turns away...but I think it's more the mustache and beard rather than anything else.

We laid her down on the mat and found her tickle spot. She has a really cute giggle and we love her smile. Most of the time she pushes her bottom lip out. This makes her look mad all the time. I don't know if that's a nervous habit of hers, or if it's a mannerism. She smiled quite a bit for us today and was really using her voice. She was really comfortable with us.

All to soon, our time was over and we had to surrender her to her caretaker. We took one last moment to take pictures of us holding her and then gave her to the caretaker. I was waving bye-bye and saying "bakah bakah" in Russian (bye-bye) and for just the slightest minute, she waved her hand like she wanted to wave. We also gave the caretaker the blankie for her, the monkey that has our voices, the picture album, and the one-time use cameras.

Dr. Ludmilla was going to a meeting, so she said good-bye to us in the hall. She told us not to worry about our daughter, that she will be well taken care of while we are gone, and she will see us when we return in four to six weeks. She then shook our hand and gave us a kiss on the cheek and wished us a safe journey home.

I was surprised that I didn't cry when it was time to leave. We did get a chance to take a few pictures of the playground and the building before it was time to go. The rest of the day was spent in our room, as we don't have the translator all day. We didn't want to try to explore on our own.

We woke up at 4:30 on Thursday and began getting ready for our trip home. The flight in Novokuznetsk departed at about 7:40. The flight was four hours long, but because of the time changes, it was only 8:05 when we arrived in Moscow. We used the restroom on our way to baggage claim. The line for the women's room was really long. When we got out of the bathroom, I thought it was strange that our luggage hadn't arrived yet. We heard an announcement that said if you hadn't received your baggage to see the desk, and sure enough...there it was! We couldn't believe how fast the baggage was claimed off that flight.

Oksana met us after baggage claim and took us to the American Airlines desk to find out when our check-in was. We were a bit early. She was unable to take us further into the airport, so she wished us a safe journey, gave us a hug and said good-bye. We waited in a waiting area for about 3 hours, then checked it. It was so long. First, we were met by a security worker who asked us about our luggage...who packed the bag? How long have you owned the luggage? Where did you pack it? Do you have any battery-operated devices? How long have you owned them? When she was satisfied with our answers, she let us through to check in. That went easy, but then we had to go through Migration, and they had to check our visas to make sure we were leaving on the day we said we would. Then we had to go through passport control, then security. Once we reached the appropriate gate, we had to wait about an hour and a half before they announced our flight. It was another security check. They took our tickets and then we had to randomly get patted down. I was randomly chosen. She searched my bags and then I had to take my shoes off so she could check them, and finally she used the wand to check for metal and such. We were then shown to another waiting area where we waited another half hour for boarding.

We boarded about 2:00 and took off around 2:40. The flight was about 9 1/2 hours, and because of the time zone changes, we arrived at O'Hare at 3:00 pm. We disembarked and went through immigration then had to collect our baggage and go through customs. We took a taxi home...and here we are!

I have to say that there are a few blogs of people who have made the trip to Russia to visit their child and they have painted a very...hectic....negative view. Sure, the airports were confusing and it was a hassle to go throught all the checkpoints. My husband is diabetic and has an insulin pump attached to his stomach. I can't tell you how many times I had to tell the security people "He has diabetes" in Russian. They mostly understood and just shooed him through without further questions. We were also worried about all his medications. We were never asked about them. The only time it was an issue was when one lady accidentally put a sticker on his carry-on, labeling it as a check-in. The next lady was going to take it, and we had to tell her no, it's a carry on. We just opened it and showed her the prescription bottles, and she took the sticker off and that was it.

As far at the people...we had heard from some blogs that the people know why you are there and are very cold towards you. We did not find this at all. The translators were very friendly, and most of the people we met were friendly too, once we showed kindness to them. The people on the street didn't show any interest at all, and that's just Russia culture. But the staff at the hotel and the staff at the restaraunt we visited were all very nice (plus, we left BIG tips!) We left 10 rubels each time we ate, which is about fifty cents, but that 10 rubels was like 20% of the bill, and most people don't tip that much. At the restaraunt Brian was concerned we didn't leave the waiter a big enough tip until I pointed out that his tip was 40% of the bill! It doesn't seem like a lot to us, but it is a lot to them. Anyway, we found that if you showed kindness...allowed a pregnant woman to go first at the bathroom, let a single person sit at your table while you had breakfast because there were no other chairs...they were friendly.

We had a great trip. We can't wait to go back and see some more!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Today went very well. Yesterday after we used the internet room, we went back to the room and just relaxed. The other couple we met here from our agency were exhausted and wanted to rest. I ended up falling asleep around 9pm and woke up at midnight. The sun was just setting at that time. I couldn't get back to sleep until 4:30 am. I woke up again at 6:30, and because I was afraid of not waking up on time at 7, I stayed awake. We ate breakfast again at the little cafe on the same level as our room. We were downstairs waiting when Aliona came to get us to go to the orphanage.
When we arrived, we went into Dr. Ludmilla's room again, and she updated us on their health and to see if we had any questions. Grace was healthy. They brought her out first, and she cried when I took her in my arms. The crying didn't last long, however, when Brian brought out the balls she liked to play with yesterday. After they brought Jacob out for Beth and Jason, we were taken into the play room. We got two hours with her today. She was really starting to warm up to us today. We started out holding her and playing with the balls and the crinkly book. We showed her the monkey, but at first she was scared of it. Eventually, I took her hands and stood her up and she started to walk around the room. She led me where she wanted to go. She actually walks pretty well with assistance. It won't be long until she's walking by herself. Perhaps when we are here for two weeks next time we can work on that so that by the time she's in the US she'll be walking alone.
We took a lot of pictures and videos. I was giving her lots of kisses, and twice she gave me baby kisses. I was so thrilled. We started using the name "Grace Tanya" for her. Tanya is what they call her at the orphanage, and of course we are changing her first name to Grace. She was using her voice a lot today. We couldn't tell sometimes if she was unhappy, or if she was just baby talking to us. Finally, noon came, and the caretakers came in to take the children away. We each gave her kisses and hugs and said our good-byes. It was heart-breaking to let her go, but we know that we have one more day with her.

Aliona then took us back to Dr. Ludmilla's office, where we had to sign some papers accepting her as our referral and agreeing to continue with the adoption. Another form stated that we agreed to all the paperwork we'll have to fill out after the adoption to allow the Russian government to check on her, and the last was a form that would tell them what name should go on her birth certificate. It was so nice to write Grace Tatyana Reynolds for the first time!

After that, we were taken to a small souvenier shop, where we purchased just a few items. We then went to a cafe near the hotel for a late lunch. Brian had a sweet and sour chicken dish (very good, but not the same as you get at Chinese restaraunts), and I had counrty fried potatoes (round new potatoes fried in butter and onion) and pelminis, Ravioli stuffed with a mixture of pork and beef with sour cream. They were very good.

Aliona told us that there was a mall across the street from the hotel and we decided to go in. I wish we hadn't. It was like a flea market. We were in there for maybe 10 minutes.

Tonight we are hoping to stay up a little later and get some good sleep. I am exhausted. Tomorrow we will have our last day with Grace. Yes, I can call her Grace now. We asked the interpreter if there were any cases where a couple were called to court and the judge said no, and she said it's never happened. She said that if the judge is going to say no, he'll say so before the second trip. I also asked if it were common for a couple to go on the first trip and not be invited to court, and she said no. So, we don't have many concerns there.

After we visit with Grace tomorrow, we will present Dr. Ludmilla with our gift of clothes. She seemed quite pleased with the fact that we were spending an extra day here to get to know Grace better. She also told us that we should expect to be back in four to six weeks for court. She seemed very pleased with the way we were acting towards the children.

Thursday morning we will get up at the crack of dawn (literally-the sun starts to rise at sets at midnight and rises at 4) and be ready for her to pick us up at 5:30 am. We will be taken to the airport to begin our long journey home. I don't know if I'll post again tomorrow.

I can't wait to get home so I can show some of you our pictures and video. Pray for us as we begin our journey home on Thursday. Start praying on Wednesday because that will be our Thursday....

Monday, June 23, 2008

We made it!

It took a while, but we made it to Russia. We left Chicago at about 5:30 pm, and the flight was 10 hours long. We arrived in Domodedovo, where there was a little confusion about where we were supposed to go, but we just followed everyone else from the flight. We had to go through "Migration", which is where we turned in a paper stating what we were there for and where we were going. We then found the baggage claim. Exiting baggage claim, we found Oksana, who was holding a sign with our name on it. She took us through the airport and then asked us if we wanted to stay at a hotel. Of course, when she called the hotel, there were no rooms, so we ended up waiting 10 hours in the Moscow airport. It was a long wait. We found a cafe and I bought a sandwich. Every time we tried to buy water, though, we always ended up with mineral water. Oksana met us again at 7pm and took us to where we needed to go for the next flight. We made it to Novo. and Aliona met us. We then went to the hotel. We arrived at about 8 am local time, and took a shower. We then fell asleep and woke up around 4pm. We ate dinner then just spent the night in the room. I didn't sleep well that night.

We met Tatyana the next day. The workers call her Tanya. We went with another couple and the directress, Dr. Ludmilla, told us each about our child, then a caretaker brought the children to us. It was so amazing! What an experience. After a few minutes in the office, they showed us to the play room, where we got to spend an hour and a half with the children. It was amazing! I'll never forget seeing her for the first time. I couldn't stop hugging and kissing her!

I'll write more later. Of course, there are more stories, but I'm paying by the minute at the internet cafe and I need to write another blog.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


We sent out our visa applications last Wednesday. They arrived at the travel agency on Thursday. The consulate was closed on Thursday due to...Russian independance day????..anyway, so they arrived at the consulate on Friday. I don't know if they were processed on Friday or Monday. I thought we would be getting the visas directly from the consulate, but I guess not. We did end up receiving them on Wednesday. I was so nervous about it. We hadn't received them on Tuesday as expected, and I was out of the house all day on Wednesday. I got home at 5 pm and was afraid to open the screen door. There they were! We also received our plane tickets and itenerary. Now I have all our things for the trip.

We have decided to have two check-in bags. We each have a carry-on stuffed with our clothes. We are only taking three changes of clothing. We wear one on Friday, and we will still be wearing it on Sunday (where are you going to change-at the airport? what kind of clean facilities will they have???). So, we will have M,T, W and the clothes we wear Monday we can wear home. Also, I believe the hotel we are staying at has a laundry, so I could do a load while there if I need to. We will also each have a second "purse" carry-on. Mine will be stuffed with our paperwork, books and other activities to keep me busy, and other important things, and Brian's will have his medications and food.

The two check-ins will have all of our "gifts" for the drivers, translators, orphanage staff, and the orphanage director. They will also contain the donation of clothes for the orphanage and food for Brian.

I'm glad that we are taking the donations and gifts now because when we go back, we will be there two weeks, and we will not only have to have our stuff, but hers as well.

I'll try to post here on our trip. We aren't allowed to upload pictures from the hotel computers, and it's illegal to post pictures of Russian orphans. So, these pictures will be the sight-seeing ones.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Update on Travel arrangements

I spoke with the travel agency on Friday, June 6, but the travel plans were only good for 24 hours. I didn't realize this, or I would have purchased them that day. Anyway, our agency called on Tuesday and said that the travel arrangements were good, but when I called the travel agency, we could no longer book the same days. So, we are leaving on Friday, June 20 instead of Saturday. This actually works out pretty well. We will arive in Novokuznetsk on Sunday, giving us an extra day to sleep before meeting our daughter on Monday. We will visit her Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for about two hours each. According to the orphanage schedule, we can visit from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. Those are the only times we are allowed to be in the orphange to visit.

There is another family traveling that week. We were supposed to meet up in Moscow, but since we are now taking an earlier flight, we will be meeting at the hotel. Their child is also at the same orphanage. We will be able to see our children together. We might even go sight-seeing together. We do not have access to a driver or translator for non-adoption related tasks. However, if we are willing to pay a little extra, we can ask the driver to drive us around if he isn't busy. On the other hand, since we will be with another couple, it might be nice to just walk around and explore Novokuznetsk.

We found out a little about the orphanage. Our hotel is in Novokuznetsk. Our orphanage is in Prokopeyvsk. We are hearing very good reviews of this orphanage. We are hearing that the directress is very nice and that the children are very well taken care of. We also received a sample menu of what the children eat during the day. Although it's not much like an American diet, it's not all porrige and mush.

Please keep us in your prayers as we plan for this trip. I am very busy from now until then. Friday I work, and then in the evening we have the appointment with the psychologist. That evening we leave for Indiana for the weekend. We will be there all day Saturday and Sunday for Father's Day. On Sunday we return home with my neice. I will have her Monday and Tuesday. I don't know if I work on those days. My father-in-law is supposed to pick her up Tuesday night. I work Wednesday, Thursday I don't know about yet, but Thursday night I'm supposed to do stamping cards, and we leave Friday night. In between there somewhere I'll need to do some laundry so we're not overwhelmed when we come back home.

Please pray for us on our journey as well. We leave Friday at 5pm and arrive home on Thursday at 4pm. We don't have anyone to take us there, so we'll either have to drive or take a Taxi.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Wonderful News

Towards the end of May we had the first part of our psychological exam. It was easy, yet thought-provoking. It was a series of true-and-false questions. However, it was "false, slightly true, mostly true , very true". Some of the questions were really good like "I have value and worth". Others were really funny like "my favorite singer is Celine Dion". Others made you look bad no matter what you answered. These were usually about drugs or alcohol. "My drug use affects my family life". If you answer true, you're a druggie. If you answer false, you're still a druggie, but it doesn't affect your family life. There were 343 questions. I finished fairly quickly and then asked the doctor's permission to read the questions for Brian because of his reading problems. He's half blind, so it's hard for him to read. We would have been sitting there until midnight waiting for him to finish.

Our second half of the exam will be Friday the 13. Yes, Friday the 13. We will each meet with him for an hour, then together for a half hour. He will then type up letters for each of us and then forward them to our agency.

I was at the zoo on the 5th of June, when I noticed that I had a voice message. I called back, and it was our agency. WE TRAVEL ON JUNE 21 TO MEET OUR DAUGHTER!!!!! I was so surprised and psyched. We are overwhelmed with feelings. There are a million tasks that need to be completed between now and then. I spoke with the travel agency today, and we will need to send them our visa applications and passports to get our visas. We are lucky. Most people only get a 7-10 day notice. We get a 16-day notice! Still, there are a lot of details to attend to. I'll write more once I get some more details. Our itenerary needs to be approved by our case worker before we can purchase the tickets, and the hotel is booked through the agency. Our case worker is at a wedding and won't be back until Tuesday, so I won't know if I can buy the tickets or what the hotel rate will be until she gets back.

Anyway, it looks like about $5000 round-trip for the two of us, and that doesn't include spending money or food.

Please pray for us as we prepare to travel.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Psych exam

We found out on Thursday that we have to have a psychological exam before we take our first trip. So, I will be calling our doctor to see if he recommends anyone. Just more hoops to jump through.

We don't know when we'll be able to go...we are still praying for July or August. Of course, we are hoping for sooner, but we'll take it a day at a time and a step at a time....

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Situation in Russia

It has been 3 months since we accepted our referral of Tatyana. In a normal situation, we would have taken our first trip toward the end of February or beginning of March, and would be expecting our second trip any day now. However, we find ourselves still waiting...and waiting...and waiting.

Our case worker sent out a general e-mail with details on what the executive director and president of the agency found. According to her, the Kemerovo region (which is where our paperwork is) has been temporarily shut down. There are two speculations as to why it is shut down. According to other agencies and people on the Kemerovo chat forums, the region is shut down due to the recent murder of an adopted child from Russia. It's a different story according to our agency, however.

Our case worker said that the region is shut down for a while because the orphanages for the region have exceeded their quota of children being adopted. The region will re-open in July or August. It is unclear if the "year" means that they exceeded the quota for a half-year, or a quarter, or if their "year" starts in July or August. I'm not too sure if this makes sense to me. There are a lot of children sitting in orphanages waiting for loving families. Why would there be a "quota"? Wouldn't these orphanages just love the chance to provide loving homes to the children they cannot care for? I don't know.

So, unless a miricle happens and Kemerovo opens again in the next couple of weeks, I probably will not post again until we get an invitation to travel.

USCIS update: We had our fingerprints re-taken this morning. Our social worker did come for a home visit a couple of weeks ago, and was supposed to submit a home study update to USCIS by May 1. I have no clue if she got it in on time, as I can't contact her now until Monday. I received an odd letter from USCIS talking about a home study and background check, but I have no clue what it's supposed to be talking about. I will also e-mail USCIS on Monday to check with them if they received the update they were waiting for. We've already been approved once, so this is just changing our country to Russia. I don't think they would approve us for one country and not another. That makes no sense to me. So, perhaps God sent this little "halt" to the region until our USCIS situation can be resolved. I don't know. All I know is we continue to sit here and wait.....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nothing New

The executive director and president of our agency are back from their trip to Russia. I am sure they are holding meetings with the case workers to give individual updates on all their clients that currently have a dossier submitted to Russia. However, our case worker was out-of-town for a wedding until today. So, I have no idea when she'll be able to give us an update on what is happening with our case.

Here's the latest news: Some yahoos on the chat groups are bemoaning the fact that Russia won't accept adoptive parents that are on antianxiety or antidepressant drugs. So, I didn't panic (Brian's on both). I just wrote back that it's not a "Russia" thing, it's an agency and region thing. Meaning: "don't get us all in a panic...check with your agency." Our agency is aware that Brian is on those meds and would have told us if there was going to be an issue.

So, for now, we have no new news to share....except that we finally heard from USCIS, and our appointment to get our fingerprints re-taken is on Saturday, May 3 at 8 am. I am so glad that will be out of the way!


Monday, April 14, 2008

The Wait

Where do I start today? It turns out that the staff at the DOE was not on vacation. They were told to take off while the government decided what to do about the case in Utah where an adoptive father murdered his adopted children from Russia. This happened on March 7, and our paperwork made it to Russia on March 3. Just our luck.

Well, so the DOE is back and running again processing adoptions. However, there is another dimension to the game. Now when we arrive in Moscow before we go to court, we have to undergo an 8-doctor visit. It's supposedly non-invasive. Just so these specialists can go over our paperwork that we did in the States and ask us questions reguarding our health. There is also to be a psychiatric exam to boot. It's to cost $650-800 per person.

As if that's not bad enough, our fingerprints for Immigration expire in June, and 8 weeks before they expire we have to notify Immigration so they can make another appointment for us to get fingerprinted again (another $80). So, I sent in my letter on Friday, a few days early than the 8 weeks.

But wait-there's more! On Friday our social worker told us that Immigration wrote them and said they cannot approve us for Russia because we had not had a home visit in almost a year. Also, some of the answers to our questions were not acceptable. For instance, our other social worker asked us if we were ever accused of a sexual offense, and we said "no". But since she did not write our responses word-for-word, it's unacceptable. How many words does it take to say NO??? Anyway, she's coming today at 5:30. I'm not as nervous as the first time, but I am kind of nervous because our downstairs bathroom is torn apart because we have to replace water-damaged walls and ceiling, and our bathtub has part of the wall missing from having pipes replaced. I know I'm being paranoid, but those are my fears.

Anyway, I do know that the executive director and the president of our agency are in Russia right now checking into the situation. They are also checking on each individual case. We will be called in a week or two to get an update on what is happening with our case and to also maybe even get a travel date. So, here I go...waiting at least another two weeks before we hear anything!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Second Dossier

Well, I was able to get most documents for our second dossier apostilled today. The financial statements were giving us problems. The woman who notarized the financial statement did not sign her name exactly as it appears in her stamp. We also could not get the CPA's license apostilled because a notary stamped them, but there were no signatures, and no statements like "I certify that this is a copy of an original....". So, once we correct them I have to take them back downtown. I will also have to take copies of our "State Adoption Law" that our social worker is sending us. That leaves only three documents for our second dossier to do after we return from our first visit. We need to have police clearances, medical exams, and the 10-day waivier.

As I looked at the calander, I realized that it has been two months since we received our referral. It has gone very quickly, but at the same time, I'm a little alarmed. Shouldn't we have been on our first visit already? Two months seems an awfully long time after the referral. You usually hear that people wait for months for a referral and then travel within two weeks on their first trip. You don't hear of people getting a referral quickly and then having to wait months for the first trip. I'm starting to get a little suspicious, but at the same time, I'm trying really hard not to panic and see problems where none exist. I just pray that we will hear soon when we will be able to travel. I have almost everything ready...we just need to send our applications out for our VISAS. I even have most of the information on the VISAS filled out, except for where we will be staying and the dates we will be there.

Well, that's all the news I have for now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

No News

We don't have any new news to report this week. Our coordinator in Russia doesn't know when the DOE will get back from their vacation. While I'm getting impatient waiting for a travel date, I know that in a few months when we have our daughter home, I'll look back at this time and see how fast it actually went. As a matter of fact, I was just marveling the other day when I realized that our journey actually started over a year ago! We submitted our original contract with our agency on Feb. 14, 2007. As things were unfolding last year, I thought it was taking for ever. Now I look back, and I can't believe how quickly time flew!

Our only concern right now is that our fingerprints for USCIS expire in June, so it looks like we'll have to be re-fingerprinted. I don't know at this point if it costs another $80 or if it's free since we already paid for the first set....

Friday, March 21, 2008

Top ten things to do during your adoption experience

There are many things I wish I had known before I started this journey. It's been an interesting experience trying to "learn as you go". I supplied this post so that you will be better prepared for your journey.

10) Read! Get yourself books on parenting, adoption, potty training, discipline, all kinds of topics. The more you read the more you are prepared to have different methods on hand for situations. As a nanny, I find that I use methods from several different sources. I use methods from books, Supernanny (of course), parenting classes I took through our home study, parenting classes in church, and...books! You will not be able to use the same technique with all your children.

9) Take some parenting classes. These will help you think about different techniques you want to use with your child. Even if you already have a family, taking parenting classes can really help you figure out how to get your household under control before the next child comes in.

8) Fully research your agency before you commit to anything. Although I don't have any "official" complaints about our agency, I do wish that I had asked some key questions about their programs before committing to them.

7) Fully research the country you hope to adopt from. Talk to people who have already adopted from that country. Join a chat group for people who are adopting from that country and gather information. Please note, however, that different agencies have different requirements for some countries, so some information may be different. For instance, we had a referral for Guatemala. On the chat groups, people were talking about visiting their referral during the process. Some even decided to foster their child during the process by staing in-country. The children would then live with you in your hotel/apartment until you were done with court. However, when I asked our agency about visitin our referral, we were told that they do not allow it. Make sure you know what your agency expects/allows during the process BEFORE you begin!

6)Organize! You must be anal about organizing paperwork during this time. Purchase one of those milk-carton style files for your adotion information. I have expandable file folders in there that I keep my information in. One is for the homestudy, another for USCIS or BCIS (depends on your state...Immigration). One is for your dossier paperwork, another for general information(nursery ideas, parenting tips, etc...) I also break down the dossier folder with several files inside: notarized originals, photocopies, apostilled originals, my copies, extras, agency copies, court originals. You may not want all of them, but there have been times when I needed an extra original of something, and all I had to do was go to the correct file to find it.

5) Start shopping now! Some countries require that you take a donation to the orphanage. Some people wait until they get in-country before they purchase anything. That's fine, because then you can ask the orphanage director what they need (OTC medicines, diapers, formula, etc. that can be purchased at a local pharmacy). However, there are some major benefits to buying them before you go-espcially if you are considering taking clothes. Orphanages are constantly looking for clothes. It's common to see one baby wearing a particular outfit one day, and another baby wearing it the next...without a washing in between. It's no wonder diseases are widespread! If you'd like to take a donation of clothing, start thinking now how much you would like to spend. I think $100-$200 is about average. Once you determine how much you would like to spend, start hitting the clearance sales! A WalMart in our area just had a clearance rack, and most items were $1!!! Not kidding! I came away with 60 outfits. A caution about donating toys: I think it's a fantastic idea, but a friend of mine told me that when she visited an orphanage, instead of opening the boxes for the children to play with, they were placed on the top shelf and left alone. If that doesn't bother you, go for it! Again, hit the clearance isles. You can find some fantastic deals on toys. Start stocking up now...even if you are in the beginning stages! It's well worth the money saved.

4) Know where your Secretary of State's Office building is for getting apostilles. We live about 12 miles from downtown Chicago, and let me tell you, it was well worth going to the building in person. This is now the third country that we've had to apostille paperwork for, and if I had to FedEx it all in, it would have been a pain. If you live even 50 miles away from your state's capital or wherever your nearest location is, PLEASE consider going in person. You save a ton of time. I catch the early train, and arrive at the location right at 8am when they open. I wait maybe 15 minutes, and it's done. FedEx is costing about $20 each way. A train ticket costs $6.75 for a two-way. Of course, I know you have to factor in fuel costs and such, but it's well worth it if you can go in person.

3) Get to know several people: a notary public, a public accountant, your bank staff. You will have to have everything notarized, and you may not get everything you need in one visit. Try to see if there is a notary public where you work...and brown nose! If this person is going to notarize your documents for no charge, send them flowers, chocolate, thank-you cards, etc... Also consider getting this person a NICE gift from the country you are visiting. Our notary public has been fantastic! She has had to notarize tons of documents for three different dossiers now. Be aware that even though banks have a notary public, some won't notarize document being used for adoption. We found that out the hard way. Ask ahead of time. The accountant you may need to sign your financial forms for the dossier. We are going through Russia, and our agency requires that our financial worksheet be signed by a CPA. I don't know if that's an agency requirement, or if it's common for all Russian dossiers. We've been having problems with this one because we do our own taxes and therefore don't have a CPA. We are finding that CPA's are unwilling to sign the document if you are not a client (even if you offer to pay a fee!) I suggest you make some friends at your bank. If you are one of those people that do everything from the ATM machine, or from the drive-through, I would highly suggest you take the time to actually go in your bank and get to know some tellers. You will need a lot of Certified Checks, Money Orders, and of course, your cash withdrawl. Russia requires that you take the country fee in brand new $100 bills. You need to be able to request these from your bank, and it helps if they know about it ahead of time. Our bank requires at least a week's notice. Other banks may need more time, and some (small banks) may not be able to do this at all. You need to know as soon as possible so you can make arrangements. Your bank staff can also be helpful by guiding you in how to invest the money you are using for the adoption. If you are using credit, or equity, feel free to ignore this next little part. However, if you have been blessed by God to be able to use cash, your bank can help you in deciding what type of account to place it in while you go through the process. Anything that will help you get the maximum amount of interest without getting penalized for making withdrawls.

2) Make more than one original set of ALL your dossier documents. I am requesting at least five original copies of all my documents. Seems a little overboard, but I want to play it safe. I am apostilling at least three copies of the originals, and leaving two signed/notarized copies in a seperate folder. That way, if any of the three already apostilled gets "lost", I have other originals I can just run downtown and have apostilled. This also means that I can take a photocopied set to Russia with me, and an apostilled set with me in case any of our court documents gets "lost" while we are there. You can also leave a complete set of notarized documents with a trusted friend. If any get "lost" while you are in country and you don't have spare, you can have your friend get them apostilled and FedEx or DSL them to you. Make photocopies of all your notarized documents BEFORE you have them apostilled. For most countries, you must have exact photocopies of all your documents. In most cases, the apostille is attached to the top of your document. In some cases, however, the apotille is attached in the middle of a packet. For instance, if the notary appears on the second page of a document, the staple is removed, the apostille placed on top of the notary and then stapled. You CANNOT remove the staple in order to photocopy the last page, so if you have the pages already photocopied, you don't have to worry about getting a good copy. Also, some states (Indiana for example) not only staple the apostille to your document, they add a huge sticker (stamp) on top of that, making it impossible for you to remove the apostille without damaging your document. I have several different folders to keep track of dossier documents: documents that need to be notarized, documents that need to be apostilled (same folder...I take all documents to be notarized/apostilled at the same time), notarized copies (extras) , apostilled dossier set, photocopies, agency set, my set, apostilled set (extras).

1) The number one piece of advice I could give you: Order more than one copy of your birth certificates/marriage license and HAVE THEM APOSTILLED AT THE SAME TIME!!! Most of the time you will need your certificates to be apostilled, and it is worth it to request your original copies to be apostilled before they are sent to you. Early in the process, (even before you choose an agency) write to your state's vital records department and request copies of your birth certificates. Call them in advance for their requirements. Some require that you include a self-addressed-stamped-envelope, a cover letter including your name, address, place of birth, birth date, parent's names, etc., and a photocopy of your driver's license. They also charge different amounts. My husband's (California) cost $15 a copy, while mine (I was born in Italy so had to get a Certificate of Birth Abroad of an American Citizen) cost $30 a piece. It was a pain to figure out who to write to get mine, so I would suggest that if you were born out of the country you figure out NOW how to get copies. Our marriage license (Indiana) was $2 a copy. If you were born in the same state you now are SO LUCKY! It avoids a ton of complications! By the way, if you were born in the U.S., try Vital Check on the internet. We ordered my husband's birth certificates in March, and by July they still had not arrived. I ordered one copy through Vital Check (because we needed it ASAP), and it arrived so fast. I ordered it on a Thursday, and it arrived on Monday. A week later, the five copies we ordered through snail mail arrived. Also important to remember- for those of you that have to write to the Department of State to get your copies...they do not apostille your certificate. You will have to then send your birth certificate to the Passport services in Washington D.C. It took me two months to finally get a straight answer from three different government agencies. My gift to you-answers!

There are so many things I learned by trial and error. I hope that providing these tips help you be more prepared to start your journey. One more piece of advice that is VERY soon as you start working with an agency, submit your I 600A. The reason is that it takes quite a while for the government to approve you, and the sooner you submit your I600 A, the sooner you'll get your approval and dossier completed. A word of caution, however. Your fingerprints are only good for a year. Since we've had such an...interesting...adventure, our fingerprints will expire before we are done with our adoption. Therefore, in a month or so, we will have to have our fingerprints re-done. Not a huge issue, but make sure you are aware of when your prints expire, and tell your agency well in advance so they can tell you how to contact the goverment agecy and get another apointment.

Well, that's all the tips I have for today. I hope the lessons we learned the hard way have helped you make your journey less stressful. I welcome your comments. If you have any tips that you have found to save time/money/stress, please let me know!

No News

We haven't had any news recently. We were told that the person responsible for our paperwork at the DOE is on vacation, but we don't know for how long, so we don't know when to expect an update. Our case worker is confident we will travel in April, so it looks like it might be mid-to-end of April. Meanwhile, a lot of our documents for our second dossier are done. I just need two employment letters, our letter from our realtor, and for the CPA to sign our financial paper. The employers and the realtor have the samples, and I know that I will have them done within a week. That just leaves the medicals and the police reports, which we will not have done until right before our second trip. We are hoping to be able to take part of our dossier with us on trip one. We were told that we can hand over anything that's done. I wonder if that helps you travel faster if you have most of it done earlier?

We are just biding our time and trying to be patient. My husband has been acting strangely lately. He's been cleaning more frequently, and throwing things away. He's a pack rat. He never throws things away. I'm thinking he's either "spring cleaning" or "nesting".

In an effort to consider the environment when raising our daughter, we have decided to use two different diapers. The first will be used when we travel in Russia, or for long car trips like when we go see our families. They are gdiapers. They are a cross between a cloth diaper and a disposable. The outside is a really soft material with velcro in the BACK (so babies can't pull their diapers off). The inside is a plastic liner that snaps onto the inside. Inside the palstic liner,you place a disposable pad. This didposable pad is amazing. You can actually flush it down the toilet! You have to be really careful, though, and if you live in an older house, or out in the country, you may not want to flush it. You can also throw it in the garbage. Traditional disposable diapers take up to 500 YEARS to biodegrade. These take 52 days.

The second system we will use the majority of the time. They are fuzzi bunz, an All-In-One cloth diaper. The outside is a waterproff material (like cotton, only waterproof), and the inside is fleece microfiber. The fleece microfiber pulls wetness away from baby's skin. You get less diaper rash! There is a "pocket" in which you place an insert that comes with your fuzzi bunz. This absorbant insert is what holds the moisture. You can place two inserts for night time, or even a pre-fold. I know this will make more laundry, but since I plan to be a stay-at-home mom, I don't think that will be too much of an issue.

I know I have yet to factor in water use, but the fuzzi bunz were about $200 for a set of 12. (ebay) The G diapers were about $80 for four pants and a small package of liners. Unfortunately, the liners we'll have to keep buying, be I am planning on stocking up on them now while I'm working and we can afford it. We currently have about 300 liners-and if we are only using them occasionally, those should last us a while.

If you've been considering cloth diapers, give fuzzi bunz or gdiapers a try. I think you'll be impressed by how much they DON'T look like regular cloth diapers.

Happy Easter Everyone!

Friday, March 14, 2008


We received an update from our agency (finally). Yesterday, our agency e-mailed us to let us know that they had not heard from the coordinator in Russia concerning our case. Although I was disappointed, there’s nothing I can do about it at this point. However, today she e-mailed us with more news. The dossier is at the Department of Education, which is really cool. But, the person handling our case is on vacation. This person has to review our information, issue us an "official" referral, and send us an invitation to travel. We have to wait until this person returns from vacation before we can know when we travel. While I think it stinks that our travel plans will be delayed for a while longer, I don’t begrudge the worker a vacation. However, now our case worker is saying that we won’t travel until April. She was actually very appologetic about it. She told us that we would be able to travel this month, so she’s disappointed to see that we’ll have to wait a few more weeks.

Also in that e-mail she included all the documents we need for the second dossier. It doesn’t look too hard. Most of them are papers that we open in Microsoft Word, type in our correct information, print, notarize and apostille. There are a few that will take a while, like getting copies of our deed and such, but most are really easy. She said that we can do all of them except the medical reports and the police clearances, since they have an expiration date. The medicals are only good for about a month (since your health can change quickly) , and the police clearances are only good for six months.

This dossier should in some ways be easier, but in some ways harder. It should be easier because they have very specific guidelines that we must follow in order for the document to be done correctly. This makes it easy because we know exactly what we have to do in order to make it right. However, the same thing makes it harder. With the other two dossiers we worked on for Nepal and Guatemala, we were just given a list of documents needed, and there were only a few instructions. A lot of the paperwork we did for Nepal we could use for Guatemala, because there wasn’t a "formula" or a "form". For Russia, we can’t use any of the paperwork we did for Guatemala or Nepal because Russia has a form you print out (Word document), and a "formula" for all the letters. It tells you exactly how your employer should write the letter of employment! I guess that’s the way it is to make it easier for the translator. If there’s a "formula" to the documents, then he only has to concentrate on the specific details.
Well, I’ve got a stack of 15 documents that I need to prepare. 13 of them are documents for the dossier and 2 are check lists and more instructions. I’m going to start chipping away at it. Our case worker also mentioned that any documents completed for court that are done before our first trip we can take with us. I guess that’s so the translator can start working on the documents ahead of time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Our Siberian Princess turns One!

Happy Birthday! Today is your birthday, Princess! Tatyana means "fairy princess", so you are our "Siberian Princess"! We hope that your caretakers made this day a little special for you, and we can't wait to go to Russia and meet you. In a few months, we will be a "forever family".

Monday, March 3, 2008


We e-mailed our agency to find out if it's possible to FedEx our documents to Russia. Our case worker e-mailed back that our paperwork is already in Russia! Last Friday, the 29th of February, we were told that we had to wait for a family to travel. We assumed that we'd be waiting a while because I didn't see anyone on the agency web site that was saying they were traveling soon. Anyway, it appears that a family left for Russia this weekend and handed our paperwork of to the corrdinator in Russia. Our case worker will call us later this week to let us know when the coordinator says we can travel. Our first step will be to make travel arrangements and book a hotel. Second, we will have to send our passports away to the embassy to get our visas. The Russian and American governments will want to make sure they know where we will be when we are there, so our visas will say where we are staying. We will provide the embassy with our fedex number so that we can have it back in a few days. We could have a 3-day turn around, so we could leave in a week or so. However, we are not getting to excited, as we might not be able to leave for a month or two (highly unlikely). Average is about 17 days. I'll post again when we find out when we leave!

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Well, what a week this has been! On Sunday I came down with the flu. All day Sunday and all day Monday I stayed home and tried to stay warm. Of course, it doesn't help that this week has been bitterly cold! On Tuesday, I felt more chills, but a bad cold now. I took the day to relax and rest. Lucky I stayed home because our home study arrived today certified mail. Today, Thursday, I feel only slightly better. Because it was a day off of work, I took all our dossier documents downtown and had them apostilled (the county checks to see if the notary is actually certified to notarize, and then they put a letter over the notarized paper with a seal.) It took three hours, and I was all bundled up against the cold. Also, instead of walking to the building from Union Station, I took a taxi. It really wasn't that bad, but I feel horrible now. I came home, and of course, you have to make photocopies of all the apostilles because all your photocopies have to be EXACT copies. So....two hours of photocopying apostilles! I then had to staple all the numbered apostilles to the correct documents. For isntance, the apostille for one of the forms is number 80, so I had to make sure that the photocopied "80's" went on the corresponding pages. Then, I had to place each copy or original onto one of six piles. Yes, six. There are three piles for the Department of Education and three piles for Court. One pile in the DOE is for the DOE and is sent to the agency...that's all the originals and is our "dossier". Another folder is for the Agency, and is an exact copy of all the DOE pages. The last is "our" folder to take with us on the trip and to keep for our records and are an exact copy of the DOE pages. The other three are the same only for court when we take our second trip.

So, after about two or three hours of copying, putting in folders, double-and-triple-checking, I finally took all our dossier documents to FedEx. Two sets will arrive tomorrow morning! They will check it over (which is just a formality as I already e-mailed her the whole dossier and she was able to check it over before I actually sent it out), and then they will send it off to Russia! Sometime after that, we will be notified of our first visit. People usually travel between 10 and 17 days after receiving their referral, but since we already have a referral, I don't know if it will be the same or if it will be longer.
Post again soon!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Welcome to our blog! We are the Reynolds family. We have been married for 9 1/2 years. We had always prayed for a child, but God did not bless us with one of our own. There are medical reasons why it's not possible, but we won't talk about it here.

Our journey began a year ago when we decided to adopt. God had blessed us financially, and we decided to use that gift to adopt a child. We researched agencies, and we filled out a contract. Within one day of sending it out, we got a phone call to be introduced to our social worker and case worker. Within a few days, we met with our social worker and began the paperwork for the home study. We also signed up for an adoption seminar to get our credits for DCFS. Our case worker discussed the different programs and sent us the dossier paperwork.

We were flying high as we began a dossier for Nepal. We were done with our dossier in record time, and our home study was done earlier than expected, too. However, we found out through Nepal adoption chat groups that the new government was dissatisfied with the current adoption law, so they were halting all adoptions until they could re-write the adoption law. This meant that we could not submit the dossier we worked so hard to create. This also meant that all the couples that had already met their child and were waiting to return to finalize found themselves on hold. After waiting a couple of months, we decided to consider other programs. Our agency gave us information about a lot of different countries, but we didn't find one we really felt comfortable with.

In mid-August, we received a referral for a baby girl in Guatemala. However, we received word shortly after that she had died. After careful consideration of our options, we decided to stick with Guatemala. Our agency told us that Guatemala was also changing their laws, and we could end up not being able to complete the adoption. We took the chance and began working on a dossier. In October we received a referral for a little girl a year old. For three months we dreamed of adding that little girl to our family. However, that is not the child God intended for us. We found out on February 4 that the birth mother had changed her mind.

When the ageny called to deliver that terrible news, they also offered a baby girl in Russia. She told us to look at her information and to consider our options. Guatemala was no longer an option because they weren't taking new referrals until the new law opened up in April. After looking at her photos and thinking about our options, we decided to pursue this adoption in Russia.

We received our dossier documents right away, and our social worker was notified right away to update the home study.

So, it has been 8 days since we accepted the referral of Tatyana. We are frantically trying to finish the paperwork necessary for the first trip. It's not a lot, but it all needs to be notarized and apostilled. We have it all done and notarized and are waiting for our social worker to send us the home study. She said that she would send it Wednesday or Thursday. I will be taking it to be apostilled as soon as I get it. If it arrives early enough on Thursday, I will go right away. If not, I will go on Tuesday, since Monday is President's Day.

So, that is where we stand with our adoption. We are taking this waiting time to go through adoption blogs and reading all we can about adoptions from Russia, and in particular adoptions from the Kemerovo region, which is where we are going.

We will post updates as new information becomes available. Please pray for us as we pursue this adoption of Tatyana.